We ask a lot of first responders. When we dial 911 after a loud crash wakes us from a sound sleep, we want the police to be there in seconds, ready to keep the bad guys at bay. When smoke chokes back our words as wildfires threaten our homes, we expect firefighters to battle heat and fatigue while they keep our families safe.
A Small Fix, a Huge Difference
Yet, when they’ve needed us, the law has let them down. Thankfully, this year we have another chance to make things right.
Under Colorado law, first responders are unable to apply for workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder suffered while on the job. The statute specifically states that for an employee to qualify for a claim of mental stress, it has to “be generally outside of a worker’s usual experience.” But when your job involves dealing with traumatic events, it hardly seems reasonable that you’re unable to even ask for – let alone receive – any help in dealing with that trauma.
It’s not enough we ask so much from these everyday heroes, but we also expect them to stand tall and keep their problems to themselves as they go about their life-saving business.
Colorado House Bill 1229 is a long-overdue remedy. It’s a further clarification on Colorado’s workers’ compensation law that allows first responders to seek claims involving a “psychologically traumatic event” while on the job, if that worker suffered PTSD after the event, as diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional.
In short, this legislation shifts the focus from the employee’s occupation to the actual catastrophic exposure. At the same time, the bill doesn’t “open the floodgates” to a storm of frivolous workers’ comp claims. It’s simply a common sense solution to an unfair consequence from the current law.
The bill, introduced March 6, makes its appearance after this year’s legislative session is already more than half over. But the outlook is promising. Committee hearings wrapped last week, which included testimony from Burg Simpson shareholder Nick Fogel. That, along with its bipartisan sponsorship, helped the bill clear the Colorado House with an overwhelming 52-11 vote. The bill now awaits consideration in the Senate and is off to an encouraging start.
Our first responders deserve our support and so does HB 1229. Contact Burg Simpson’s Colorado worker’ comp lawyers at 303-792-5595 or fill out a Free Case Evaluation form today if you think you have a potential worker’s comp claim.